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Three million pay extra for passports after leaving it late to renew

Three million pay extra for passports after leaving it late to renew

Just over three million applications for pricier fast-track passport renewals have been made in the past five years, costing travellers an extra £130 million, MoneySavingExpert.com can reveal.

Figures we've obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that between April 2013 and April 2018 there were almost 1.4 million applications for the one-day passport service, and nearly 1.8 million for the one-week service.

Following price rises in March this year, a one-day passport application now costs just over £100 more than a standard application. 

Although there are situations where getting a fast-tracked passport is unavoidable, the high volume of premium applications suggest many are ending up paying extra simply because they have left applications to the last minute.

How much more does a last-minute passport cost?

These figures were recorded between 6 April 2013 and 5 April 2018 – for all but a week of this period, the one-week fast track service cost £30.50 more than a standard online application, while the one-day premium service was £55.50 extra.

Yet when passport prices were increased in March this year, the cost of premium passport services saw a dramatic hike:

  • Standard online applications now cost £75.50 (was £72.50).
  • One-week fast-track applications cost £142 (was £103).
  • One-day applications cost £177 (was £128).

With express passport prices rising so much faster than standard passports, the cost of waiting until the last minute to make an application is now even higher.

What do the figures show?

The stats we've obtained show that 100,000s are paying extra for express services every year – and while applications for the one-day premium service have dropped since 2013, applications for the one-week service are continuing to rise.

When taking into account the price differences between a standard passport application and the premium services (prior to the price rise), the total overpayment over the five years is equivalent to more than £130 million.

Fast-track passport applications by year

Financial year (6 April-5 April) One-day Paper Premium service One-week Fast Track service
2013/14 326,837 281,194
2014/15 303,880 411,840
2015/16 261,553 342,874
2016/17 256,237 367,909
2017/18 233,687 370,277

With the Paper Premium service, you book an appointment and get your passport four hours after your appointment. With the one-week service, you get your passport within a week of having an appointment.

In July last year, an Online Premium service was launched, which allows you to book an appointment at least two days in advance and get your passport during your visit for the same price as the Paper Premium service. Up until April this year, there had been 16,570 applications for this.

How can I avoid overpaying?

There are a number of ways you can avoid paying too much for your passport:

  • Make sure you know when your passport expires. The best way to avoid having to make a last-minute application is to know when your passport will need to be renewed and plan ahead. The expiry date is listed in your passport on the photo page - check it now.

  • Appyling online is cheapest. This costs £75.50 on the Gov.uk website compared to £85 for applying by post. See our 75,000 a week miss out on cheapest passport application rates MSE News story for more.

  • Check how long your passport needs to be valid for before you travel. Double-check whether the country or countries you're planning to travel to have any further passport requirements. For example, China, Thailand and Turkey require you to have at least six months left on your passport before it expires when you travel there.

  • For renewals, apply more than three weeks in advance. The standard passport service can take up to three weeks, so you'll need to leave longer than this to guarantee your passport will arrive in time.

  • For a new passport, apply more than six weeks in advance. If you've never had a UK passport before, applying for the first time will take longer than renewing, so leave more than six weeks to guarantee it'll arrive on time.

  • Beware shorter renewals after the recent rule change. Previously, when you renewed your passport, any time left on your existing passport was added to your new one, up to a maximum of nine months. But under the new rules introduced in September, this no longer applies and any existing months will be lost if you renew early. See our Passport applicants given shorter renewals after stealth rule change MSE News story for more.

  • Avoid copycat sites. The only site you'll ever need to go to is the Gov.uk website. Some have been caught out by sites that look like the official Government site for passports, but charge £20-£100 on top of the official passport fee.

I needed a passport urgently – can I get a refund?

Sadly, there are some situations where paying for an express passport is unavoidable. If, for example, you urgently needed a passport to visit an ill family member abroad, you may be able to get a refund for the extra premium fees on compassionate grounds.

You could be eligible for this refund if:

  • You had to travel abroad for medical treatment.

  • You had to travel urgently because of the death or serious illness of a family member, friend or business associate.

  • You're seriously ill or a carer for a seriously ill person, and your travel has been arranged by a charity or religious organisation.

You could also get a refund if the Passport Office didn't get your passport to you within the guaranteed turnaround time, meaning you had to use an express service. You won't be eligible if your application was rejected, you used the wrong service, or you missed or cancelled a passport appointment.

To apply for a refund, fill out the Passport Office's claim form and return it addressed to the customer service manager at the office where you had your passport appointment. 

If you're successful, you'll be refunded for the price difference between a standard passport application and the premium service you used.

What does the Home Office say?

A Home Office spokesperson said: "We recommend that UK travellers check their passport validity before they travel.

"First-time applications made in the UK for adult passports can take up to six weeks to process. Applications from overseas can take longer."